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The UK’s largest commercial port says the supply chain crisis has caused a logjam of shipping containers.

The Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK’s freight container traffic, blamed the busy pre-Christmas period and haulage shortages.

However, it said the situation has been improving over the last few days.

The news follows a Financial Times (FT) report that shipping giant Maersk is diverting container vessels away from the port.

The FT said Maersk was re-routing ships away from Felixstowe to other European ports, where smaller vessels will be used for UK deliveries.

Lars Mikael Jensen, head of global ocean network at Maersk, told the FT: “We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers. Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals.

“We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo. We did it for a little while over the summer and now we’re starting to do it again.”

Problems at Felixstowe come as retailers and other groups warn of mounting concern about stocks in the run-up to Christmas trading.

The port has blamed several factors for the build-up of shipping containers, including the busy pre-Christmas peak, haulage shortages, poor vessel scheduling, and the impact of the pandemic.

On top of this, there are a high number of empty containers currently sitting at the port. Felixstowe said it is asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible.

“The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of arriving and there are over 1,000 unused haulier bookings most days,” the port stressed.

“However, the situation is improving and there is more spare space for import containers this week, than at any time since the beginning of July, when supply chain impacts first started to bite.”

Industry bodies estimate there is a shortage of about 100,000 drivers with several sectors from retailers to domestic refuse collection affected. The government recently drafted in military personnel to help deliver fuel and to issue emergency temporary visa to foreign drivers.

The shortage has been caused by several factors, including European drivers who went home during the pandemic, Brexit, tax changes and a backlog of HGV driver tests.

Ports across the world have also suffered significant delays. Retailers have highlighted particular issues in China and east Asia, where pandemic restrictions and poor weather conditions have affected shipping.

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